Thursday, May 26, 2011

Prettiest Puke Ever

Fourteen years ago, during the first thirty days of her pregnancy, my Lovely Wife had reason to believe she might be in for a smooth ride. She woke in the morning feeling well and maintained a normal appetite throughout each day.

It would seem Our Daughter's prenatal interests did not include instilling the kind of nausea, hunger, hot sweats, chills, mood swings and homicidal tendencies we'd been warned were the potential side effects of the typical, healthy pregnancy.

Then, at the end of that first month, the turkey incident unfolded.

The turkey breast, rubbed down liberally with our signature combination of herbs and spices, went into the oven while my Lovely Wife rested in the bedroom. Our house at the time being relatively small, it wasn't long before the gamey aroma of roasting fowl hung heavy in every room. I opened the oven door to baste the half-baked bird when I heard a weak voice calling me.

The overwhelming smell of the turkey had somehow jump-started the morning sickness my Lovely Wife had so far been able to avoid. With a skin tone matching that of the uncooked bird, she informed me of the need to remove both the turkey and its scent from the house with an urgent alacrity. I must confess, I momentarily struggled with the idea of chucking a perfectly good meal in the trash, but I quickly came to my senses.

Within minutes, the roasting pan was sitting out on the back porch and every window in the house was opened, ceiling fans drawing in the fresh, frigid winter air. I tried spraying Lysol to help cover the offending odor, but it only added to the nauseating mixture. The upchuck bucket -- a small, spare plastic trash can -- made it's debut that evening. It didn't leave our presence for four solid months.

It took us a few weeks to settle into a mealtime routine. Dinner options were limitless, providing dinner had no detectable aroma. All meals were eaten at home, since eating out would mean being within unreasonable proximity of a functioning kitchen in which heat was being applied to one ingredient or another.

We eventually found the one meal her stomach and nasal passages could handle: chicken tenders and French fries from Golden Corral, both smothered in the melted cheese from the potato bar. The checkout girl at our local Golden Corral could spot me from a mile away. Before I could open my mouth, she had my take-out order rung up. As a show of moral support, my staple meal became steak & fried shrimp with French fries. I even applied a generous covering of the melted cheese sauce to prove how much I loved her.

Just because we'd discovered an acceptable staple meal, however, did not mean my Lovely Wife's stomach suddenly stabilized. If Tums antacid tablets were habit forming, then my Lovely Wife would have been a hardcore addict. Deposits in the upchuck bucket were as prolific as they were predictable. I consider my time spent cleaning that bucket amazingly appropriate preparation for the diaper changing that would come.

But one day -- when the 24-hour, 7-day-a-week morning sickness had an exceptionally tight grip on her -- my Lovely Wife handed over the upchuck bucket and I recoiled in shock. There, in the bucket, was an assortment of pastel colors, each color separated from the others like some delicate frothy pousse cafe. In retrospect, it really was exceptionally pretty, as upchuck goes.

Unnerved and confused, I searched for just the right words to express my loving concern.

"What the hell is wrong with you?"

After a few minutes, we realized the picturesque layers in the bucket were caused by the various colors of the Tums tablets she had taken leading up to her latest deposit. We laughed until it was time for her to throw up yet again.

I've cleaned up my share of bodily fluids since then, but never anything quite so artistically expressive.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sissy Hissy Fit

Most of the applications that transferred to the boys' new iPod Touches when we synched them on Friday were purchased by Our Daughter. Along with fun games like TapTap Revenge and Angry Birds, they gained unlimited access to Makeover Madness, Pet Shop Girl, and Emily's Dress Up & Shop.

The end result is that half of their storage space is taken up by "girlie" apps that have no business residing on a ten-year-old boy's iPod Touch. It simply isn't manly.

Ever since that initial synch, the Italian has informed me at odd times about which apps he wants deleted, despite the fact I've told him we would sit down and take off all the offending apps at one time. Honestly, he's lucky I remember his name. Does he really think I'm going to remember the names of the different applications he throws at me in passing?

Also, I don't understand nearly so much about technology as people think I do. I must look just nerdy enough for folks to think I'm a closet techie. I can PhotoShop your face into a group picture, or throw together a quick flyer, but I'm pretty useless beyond that.

Unfortunatley, the German seems to labor under the mistaken impression that I know why the 3G connection isn't automatically set to "on" and therefore causing one or two apps to not function. I don't have a clue. I'm more than 30 years older than the technology in question, so I do what any good parent does in this situation -- ask my 13-year-old daughter to fix it for him.

Last night, before the teenager came to the rescue, the German couldn't get a particular app to work, so he asked his brother if he could borrow his iPod to play a game. The Italian, who was in the shower at the time, said "No." When pressed for a reason why the German couldn't, he again said "No."

Both My Lovely Wife and I found this to be an unreasonable response, so we told the German to go ahead and use his brother's iPod. We would face the music when he got out of the shower. And such sweet music it was...

The Italian doesn't whine, he cries. Zero to full-on cry in 1.2 seconds, in fact. That's been the story his entire life, although in recent years we've gone from seven things to cry about every day, to only one or two things worth crying over each week. Apparently, this was one of those things.

"I told him to wait until I was out of the shower-er-er!" he cried.

"We told him he could use it."

A comical mixture of disbelief, betrayal and shock consumed his wet face. He retreated to his bedroom, in which one can safely assume he was lying face down on his bed and crying into his pillow. He eventually emerged, still tearful, still a throbbing in his voice, to chastise the German.

"Come here!" I ordered. He slowly made his way to me, one hand keeping his towel around his skinny frame and the other clutching his recovered iPod. "What is your problem?"

"I was playing a game and I didn't save it and now I have to repeat the last level all over again-ain-ain..."

"What game?" I asked. "What game is so important that you have to cry about it?"

He quickly pointed to the screen. "This one," he cried. But the move was so fast, I couldn't tell which app he pointed to.

"Which one?"

He pointed again, only this time he spoke a little more quietly. "This one."

I took hold of his hand and turned the iPod to get a better look at the all-important application. Sally's Spa... Yes, that's right. My 10-year-old son threw a massive hissy fit because he might have to replay the mani-pedi round in a game in which you design and run your own virtual spa.

It could be worse, I suppose. At least it wasn't the app for tracking menstrual cycles.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Friday, May 20, 2011

Quit Picking on Ronald

I read something the other day on Yahoo:

"550 health professionals and organizations have signed a letter to McDonald's Corp. asking the maker of Happy Meals to stop marketing junk food to kids and retire Ronald McDonald."

Not only did this gaggle of nosy nellies send the letter to McDonald's, they also bought ad space in six major metropolitan newspapers across the country, because nothing shows your willingness to engage in a reasonable and fair dialogue better than buying off the national media to stir up legions of simpletons who believe a single clown mascot is personally responsible for every fat kid waddling the elementary school halls of our country.

Since when is McDonald's responsible for the health and wellness of our children? I've always understood McDonald's to be a for-profit hamburger joint. Not only don't I expect a for-profit hamburger joint to help me maintain a balanced and healthy diet, I fully expect it to be there for me when I wish to accomplish exactly the opposite.

I've never ordered a Quarter Pounder With Cheese -- and I've ordered my share -- with anything other than a full realization that it was a less healthy choice than a spring salad. I've never thought of the rehydrated onions and flacid pickles on my burger as a serving of vegetables. I've never eaten a large order of French fries and expected my shorts to fit better the next morning.

But just because McDonald's isn't the bastion of healthy dining some people obviously want it to be does not mean McDonald's is doing anything morally reprehensible.

It makes yummy food.

It sells yummy food.

Millions of people eat the yummy food.

I don't call that irresponsible, sinister, or devious. I call it a solid business model.

And why pick on Ronald? Ronald never did anything bad to anybody, other than maybe creep out the kids who were scared of clowns anyway. Besides, McDonald's already shelved Mayor McCheese, Grimace, Hamburglar, and the Fry Guys. Cut 'em some slack and leave their clown alone. It isn't like he's standing outside the restaurant playing some magic flute that hypnotizes children into buying Happy Meals.

And are the kids really the ones buying the food? I'm pretty sure I haven't see any 5-year-olds breaking out their wallets at the checkout line. I can understand the happy clown drawing a kid's attention to a Happy Meal, but isn't it the responsibility of the parents to teach moderation by occasionally employing that sweet, simple word "no"?

Some quick online research shows the McDonald's hamburger imparts 250 calories and 9 grams of fat. Feel like a cheeseburger instead? Then make that 300 calories and 12 grams of fat.

Compare that to the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich at Panera Bread, one of my other favorite restaurant chains. Mediterranean Veggie. Sounds healthy, right? It has red onions, green leaf lettuce, cucumber, peppadew peppers, fresh tomatoes, and hummus. It also has 600 calories and 13 grams of fat. And that pales in comparison to their Sierra Turkey Sandwich, which carries 920 calories and 49 grams of fat.

Now, I don't want the health Nazis targeting Panera Bread, or any other chain restaurant for that matter. And I certainly don't want to see the passage of any more ridiculous legislation, like the trans fat ban implemented by the Baltimore City Health Department. I was under the impression we lived in a free country. If I want to purchase and eat a spoonful of concentrated trans fat that's been twice-breaded and deep-fried in vegetable shortening, isn't it my right as granted to me by our Founding Fathers to clog my arteries with wanton abandon?

That's why I was thrilled to see McDonald's Corp. flip these busybody socialists the bird yesterday at its shareholders' meeting. The company's declaration that both Ronald and the Happy Meal aren't going anywhere has renewed my faith in the Capitalist system.

I've half a mind to drive down to our local McDonald's right now and order a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese just to cast my vote of support. And I'd do it, too, if I weren't dieting.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sports Dummy

Okay. Don't tell anyone, but I'm not exactly what you might call a sports fanatic.

I know. Shocking, isn't it?

All my life, the appeal of organized sports has pretty much eluded me. One of my "manly" genes must never have kicked in when I was an adolescent, leaving me more likely to shop at the mall than hang out at the municipal basketball courts.

Even the few sports that have endeared themselves to me have been left by the wayside. Baseball, for instance. During my teen years, few things were as important as rushing home from school to watch the Mets on channel 9. A really great day meant I could catch the end of the first game of a double-header, followed by the entire second game. These days I'm lucky to make it to one Durham Bulls game each summer.

The thing is, I "get" baseball. It makes sense to me. From the pitcher-batter duel to the sudden burst of activity in the field when a ball is struck into play, I understand the purpose of both the individual performances and the collaborative efforts of the offensive and defensive units. When two equally-matched teams meet on the field, it can be a wonderous thing to experience.

I just don't feel the same way about basketball, hockey, NASCAR, or even football.

When I was in college at SUNY Plattsburgh in upstate New York, our university had one of the best hockey teams in its division. I think it cost all of $6 for students to attend the games back then. You know how many I went to? None. You know why? Because I couldn't possibly, not even if you paid me to try, care less about hockey. When the NY Islanders won the Stanley Cup season after season, I lived only a short bike ride from their arena. I might have high-fived an enthusiastic friend or two at school, but it meant nothing to me.

Football games can be infectious, thanks to the repetitive scattering of bodies in every direction and the potential for dramatic plays, but that's about it for me. I know more about the sport than, say, my mother, but significantly less about it than the average 10-year-old boy.

Sports like basketball, hockey and soccer share the same problem, for my tastes. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth... After about five minutes, I'm done. Sure, if I had a deeper understanding of the nuances I might appreciate them more, but I'm just not interested.

At least racecar drivers keep things moving in the same direction. Although, while that might ameliorate my indignation at the zero net distance I associate with the back-and-forth sports, I still don't understand the excitement of someone driving hundreds of miles in a tight circle. Go to the mall and try walking just hundreds of yards in a tight circle and you'll be talking to security before you reach lap 50.

So, there you have it. I have confessed to being less testosterone-driven than the average man.

You can hold out hope for me, if you want to, but you should know something. This July, when we pack up the kids and drive to Durham for our annual Bulls game, I'll probably be just as excited about shopping at Streets at Southpoint mall before the game as I will be about attending the game itself.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Monday, May 16, 2011

Poodle Piddle

The dog shoots me an apprehensive glance.

I'm near her leash. She's near the door.

Not next to it, or propped up against it, applying pressure with her back end to hold in what's threatening to come out. Just somewhere in the vicinity, like under the dining room table.

I call her. She doesn't move. She's played this game too many times before to bother budging from her comfy spot in the shade unless I have the leash ready in hand. Who knows? I might need to fold laundry, or talk to one of the kids, or do something else that will distract me from the act of walking her.

She waits.

She also knows My Lovely Wife has been on the phone this morning, talking to someone the way you only talk to someone who probably is a veterinarian. Veterinarianesque questions involve words like "urine," "test," "exam," "appointment," and "not herself." These words were used while My Lovely Wife held the phone to her ear and stared down at the dog.

The dog isn't stupid. She knows it was a conversation with someone who owns a needle and a very cold steel table.

I finally grab the leash. She uncharacteristically hoists herself off the ground and walks slowly to me, as if I am about to lead her to a poodle-size guillotine. Rubbing behind her ear does nothing to reassure her.

Heading out the front door, she slows as we pass the garage. She thinks she knows what's coming. A fake out. A rouse.

She thinks I think I've tricked her into a walk that will turn into a car ride. She hates car rides, always has, particularly when they end at the veterinarian's office, which is why she tries to apply her brakes.

But we pass the garage without stopping. I encourage her along and her step lightens. We cross the street together and she squats over the sandy soil alongside our quiet lane.

Out of nowhere, I produce a cut-down paper cup that I thrust in the minuscule clearance between poodle hoohah and the ground. She glares at me, but she's a dog, so her indignation subsides quickly. Back in the house, she is relieved and frisky. Red rubber toy hanging from her mouth, she prances upstairs and down in gleeful anticipation of a happy day.

When My Lovely Wife calls her, she leaps off her cozy chair and bounds up the stairs. Little does she suspect where My Lovely Wife will be taking her...

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bloggie Limbo

So, Blogger has been down since Wednesday.

Not that I noticed straight away. It wasn’t until yesterday, when My Lovely Wife bemoaned the lack of recent posts, that I tried and failed to log in due to the service being down. Actually, My Lovely Wife didn’t so much bemoan the lack of recent posts as she bemoaned the lack of recent good posts. Ouch!

Since I typically publish new posts only two or three times a week, the inaccessibility of Blogger really isn’t all that impactful on my bloggericiousness.

Measured on the great bloggometer -- which runs from “I Wrote One Post Then Gave Up” all the way to “I’d Kill a Nun Holding Three Kittens and an Orphan In Order to Publish My Next Post” – I am somewhere between “Mildly Amused” and “Reasonably Dedicated.”

If anything, Blogger being down is a welcome treat. Nothing new posted? Blame blogger. Can’t come up a good idea for the next post? Doesn’t matter! Couldn’t post it if I wanted to.

At this crazy busy time of year, Blogger being down gives me a guilt-free break from blogging that I am finding strangely therapeutic. Maybe I can take this time to think of some “good” topics to write about.

2011 Mark Feggeler

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Almost 14 years ago, when my poor Lovely Wife's belly appeared unable to expand any farther, she gave birth to our first child.

She desperately hoped for a daughter and the ultrasounds told us she would get what she wanted. I got quite good at recognizing the tell-tale embryonic gender indicators during those visits. It helped that our unborn baby girl did not mind gracing us with the ocasional explicit angle -- a habit that doesn't seem to end until they reach 10 or 11 years of age.

Ever the impatient woman, my Lovely Wife employed certain tactics to encourage the birthing process. She had read the act of walking would help move the baby along down the birth canal, so it was not an uncommon sight during those final weeks of her pregnancy to see her circling our small living room with a very confused Dalmation sniffing at her heels as she went round and round the coffee table. She even walked the running track at our local high school during the American Cancer Society's Relay For Life the day before checking in to the hospital. That's what I call determination.

Once we had her settled in the birthing suite, labor pains escalated as the laughably mild contractions of the day before were replaced by the real thing. The pains came and went all through that Saturday night.

And what was the expert advice we received to help move the process along? Walk.

So, I played the part of Dalmatian as we walked circles around the corridors, repeatedly stopping as the next wave of contractions gripped my Lovely Wife. If a chair were handy, she would sit and press her head into my stomach as she concentrated on controling her breathing. I learned then that it's extremely difficult to maintain the appropriate serious composure when your wife looks up at you with a belt buckle impression in the middle of her forehead.

Eventually, the epidural was administered. We are not the all natural, new age, unconventional, statement-making kind of people. Drugs exist for specific purposes, and this was one of them. I kept watching the monitor showing the onsloaught of massive contractions and eying the mother-to-be to make sure the medications were doing their job, but I had nothing to fear.

"Everyone should have an epidural," she sighed, oblivious to the internal struggles.

Our Darling Daughter presented herself after only three rounds of pushing and deep breathing. I cut the cord, she cried, we cried, they cleaned her up, and we took turns holding her. Family members came and went, oohing and aahing over the scrunched up, swaddled bundle that was our new baby girl.

A day later she was home with us, and our lives were forever changed. Now, if someone can help us get through the teenage dating years, we might survive to grandparenthood.

Happy Mother's Day to all you Mothers out there. Thank you for the blessings you've brought to our lives.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Monday, May 2, 2011

That Christmas Smell

"Can we go to Bath & Body Works tonight?"

Our Darling Daughter, despite maturing into perhaps the most responsible and sweet-natured teenager I've ever met, still hasn't grasped the idea that her Mother and I cannot simply drop everything at a moment's notice to run errands for her.

We ask her why it has to be tonight.

"I have a coupon that expires in two days, and I'm tired of smelling like Christmas."

The temptation to lecture about the benefits of pre-planning is strong. Until, of course, I remember who I am. Pre-planning is not my forte. My poor Mother was driven to the brink of madness by my repeated lack of preparedness, as My Lovely Wife is today.

What strikes us most from her statement, however, is the "I'm tired of smelling like Christmas" bit.

I've been married long enough -- and have been the father of a girl long enough -- to instinctively understand what she's talking about, but my brain still goes into that mental lock at the sound of words I never expected to be strung together. Although, it really is just one of many strange sentences our household has dished out.

Just this weekend, My Love Wife and I were watching television. Apparently, she did not immediately understand something someone said. I explained it to her and her comment back to me was: "That can't be what they said, but I guess it could be what they said."

One of my all-time favorites came a few years ago when we were all packed up in our van and heading out for the day. We traveled along a side street near our house and over a spot where the remains of a rabbit soiled the road. The German, in a sincerely melancholy voice, said: "Bye dead bunny."

It's difficult to imagine roadkill being the source of such a fond memory, yet it is.

In this instance, no longer wishing to smell like Christmas meant Our Daughter was still using the holiday-scented body washes and lotions her brothers bought her for Christmas. Four months later, sprigs of holly and hints of fig no longer made the cut. Maybe I did let the boys go a little overboard when I took them shopping for her presents.

"Dad! This one smells like a pine tree!" The Italian excitedly shoved an open bottle of lotion under my nose. The chemical aroma reminded me of the time I accidentally sniffed a bottle of ammonia thinking it was dish detergent.

Then up comes the German with a scented candle. "I think she would like this one," he said. "It smells like candy canes." In the end, I was proud of the restraint I mistakenly believed I had imposed by allowing them each to buy her only two of the more muted holiday scents.

I suppose we need to head back to the store to check out the latest seasonal flavors. Maybe the Easter aromas are on sale. I wonder if they have a body wash called "Dead Bunny?"

© 2011 Mark Feggeler